What Is an Authoritative Website—And How to Beat Them at Their Own Game

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min read

You might have heard the term “Authoritative website” and wondered what it means and how it can help your website.

For a quick example of how powerful they are, think of three websites in the tech niche…

It’s likely TechRadar is on your list.

If I ask for a few in the financial space, you’ll probably mention Forbes.

But name recognition aside, what makes an authoritative website? And can any website become one?

Read on to discover the six qualities you´ll need to become an authority in any niche.

What is an authoritative website?

An authoritative website is a trusted source of reliable information that gets high organic search results. 

When your site is authoritative, people clicking on it will know that it’s professional and trust the information presented there. 

On the back end, authoritative websites support their expertise with excellent SEO practices, such as quality linking, a trustworthy domain name, and user-focused site design.

Authoritative websites have highly engaged users, with readers sharing the site’s content frequently among themselves, commenting, liking, and otherwise interacting with the site. 

Combine excellent SEO, quality content, and high user engagement rates, and your site will likely gain domain authority in your niche.

Is your website authoritative? Here’s how to check quickly

There are six main areas you should look at to identify an authoritative website or to start building one of your own.

But first, you might be curious as to how your website currently ranks in your niche.

You can check quickly with SEO tools like Ahrefs, Semrush, and Mozilla. These tools use their own metrics to measure domain authority. It should be noted that these are third-party metrics as they are not from Google. However, they provide a great way to compare your website against competitors.

Ahrefs calls their metric “Domain Rating” (DR) and here are their calculations for some top websites in the tech niche.

With 100 being the maximum score, we can quickly see these websites are authorities in their niche.

6 Qualities Every Authoritative Website Needs

To become an authoritative website requires a mixture of qualities. Here are six you should focus on to get ahead.

1. Website topic focus

Authoritative websites strike a perfect balance between specialization and generalization. Too specialized, and you’ll end up with little traffic to your site. Too generalized, and you won’t be able to differentiate yourself enough from other sites to become a voice of authority.

To do this intuitively, consider what people are actually interested in. I would consider myself generally interested in technology, but I would never type the word “technology” directly into a search engine. Thus, technology is too broad a topic. However, I might ask a specific question about a particular product or service type. 

A quality website narrows its niche enough to answer questions that people actually ask but keeps it broad enough to remain useful to a wide audience.

2. Quality of content

This is, for better or worse, the one area of an authoritative website where there are no shortcuts. All authoritative websites have engaging, informative content, excellent spelling and grammar, and information that cannot easily be found elsewhere. 

The differentiating factor here is writer expertise, and you can be sure that any authoritative website will have expert writers in its chosen niche on staff to provide information that’s detailed, unique, and accurate. 

Regularly scheduled and updated content adds relevancy and reliability, too. High-authority websites should have an active blog or content schedule and update outdated content. 

3. Quality of inbound links

Web crawlers will notice if other sites consistently link to a particular site when referencing a certain niche. Users consistently clicking through to a specific site from others and frequent backlinking from other sites both make a website more authoritative in the eyes of search engine algorithms.

Users notice quality links too. If I see the same link referenced on five or six different websites, I will automatically assume that this link is the ultimate authority on that topic. 

When conducting research, I often click through multiple links to find the source of a particular statistic, claim, or piece of supporting evidence for citation purposes. The website that provided the initial information is likely to be the most reputable source, and therefore the most authoritative.

4. Quality of outbound links

Outgoing links frequently serve as supporting evidence for a claim your site makes or gateways to related content. In both cases, to be authoritative, a site should use authoritative links to quality external websites.

For instance, if a blog claims to be written by topic experts but uses shady links to biased or irrelevant sources, that will create a lack of credibility, and it will never be an authoritative website. Dead links or links to research papers behind paywalls are worse still. 

The quality of outbound links can make or break your website’s legitimacy, so choose wisely.

5. User experience

A user-friendly, well-designed site is naturally easier to navigate, so users will be more likely to engage with it. High engagement is key to achieving authoritative website status. A big part of this is organic likes and shares through various social media platforms. 

User experience creates engagement and develops user trust. Sites with a poor user experience are less likely to be viewed as trustworthy by users, and therefore they are less likely to be shared, relied upon, and have good search rankings. 

6. Domain name/extension

Would you open an email claiming to be from your bank if it had the extension 

For websites, domain names function much the same way—some are seen as more trustworthy than others. If I’m simply browsing at my leisure, sites with .com extensions are usually fine, but unusual extensions such as .biz, .info, or .online seem less professional. 

And while plenty of .com sites are still authoritative, if I’m conducting serious research, government websites ending in .org or .gov are even better.

Furthermore, the domain name itself should be short, readable, and allow you to create a brand (think logos, ease of pronunciation, and originality).

Why do authoritative websites matter?

Authoritative sites rank highly on popular search engines for their given niche topic. Whatever your business’s specialization is, the most authoritative website on that given topic is the one to beat if you want your content to be visible to a large audience on Google or Bing.

SEO practices, such as constructing a backlink portfolio and ensuring that all of your external links lead to quality sites, can be learned and implemented. 

However, there are no shortcuts to industry expertise and authoritative content. Eleven, whose specialized writers have industry experience in at least one niche, can assist you when creating authoritative content.


An authoritative website is a site that can effectively demonstrate the following six qualities:

  1. Sufficiently niche website topic focus
  2. High-quality writing
  3. High-quality inbound links
  4. High-quality outgoing links
  5. Excellent user experience 
  6. Reputable domain name/extension

While good linking practices, user interface creation, and domain name choice are all SEO elements you can learn, there is no shortcut to good-quality writing, which comes only with niche-relevant expertise. 

If you’d like to hire a team that already has all the qualifications, contact Eleven today to learn how you can leverage our expert writers to catapult your content to authoritative website status.

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